On the fifteenth of September the Confederate army was divided. General Lee with Longstreet’s and other divisions, including the troops of DH Hill just driven from South Mountain, had withdrawn into the angle formed by the Potomac River and the Antietam Creek and lay upon the gently swelling hills in front of the village of Sharpsburg, waiting to concentrate his army and for his trains to cross the river into Virginia. General Jackson ws distant from Lee about seventeen miles at Harper’s Ferry, gathering in his prisoners and spoils; for at eight o’clock this morning, the garrison of Harper’s Ferry, some ten thousand men, with abundant stores, had surrendered to Old Stonewall, who by a masterly surround and occupation of the commanding heights, had compelled a surrender sooner than was thought possible. The officer who succeeded General Miles, who was killed at the moment of capitulation, was our afterwards friend and division commander General Julius White, of Indiana. The news of this loss reached us next day, and caused almost as much depression as our victory had given elation;.
The weather was fine and favorable for the movement of the armies; but the men of our regiment, after the two nights of broken rest and fatigue of battle, were happy to lie upon the field in the morning and let the warm sun thaw out limbs stiffened by the frosts of the previous night. General JD Cox of the Kanawha Division, took command of the Ninth Corps Lt. Hudson had been detailed upon the staff of Col. Ferrero before the battle. He says he had forty minutes’ chase after the Thirty-Fifth the afternoon before, and was unable to catch up with it; which shows the swiftness of our march from Middletown.
Having gathered up the stragglers, and looked after the dead and wounded, the regiment formed, about two in the afternoon, and took the road down the west slope of the mountain. The sun seemed to brighten as we left that scene of horror. It is said by those now living upon the spot that a portion of the dead were buried by throwing them into the well near the log-house at the cross roads. The valley we entered was green and fertile, and dotted with comfortable houses, many having a Dutch look, like their owners’ names. One of our mean, Greenleaf F. Jellison, of Co. C, accidentally shot himself in the foot soon after we started. In a field by the road-side two young bulls, a black and a red, seized with a desire to ape the folly of their betters, or taking advantage of broken fences to clear off old scores, were having a pitched battle. Our boys named one “Mac” and the other ”Bob Lee” and declared that the former got the better of the contest. So the auspices were propitious.
Approaching the banks of the Antietam at dark, a line of batteries appeared, posted along the ridge in front; they were warmly engaged, sending shot and shell across the stream at the enemy, whom the rise of ground concealed from us. The regiment at first turned in on the right of the road and stacked arms; then resumed them and, moving further along the road, turned into a cornfield on the left, where, with other troops massed there, we remained in bivouac all night and the following day. The sixteenth was a beautiful day, and sitting upon a bundle, leaning one’s back against a stack of arms and reading old papers, would have been quite comfortable had it not been for the shells and solid shot which our friends on the further side of the creek kept dropping into the field, generally without effect other than noise and dust, but occasionally maiming some poor fellow, causing a pause in the reading. During the day Generals McClellan and Burnside passed with numerous staffs, reconnoitering the front and drawing the enemy’s fire effectually.
At sundown we moved forward to the south and over the ridge. The brigade formed en masse and with the straw from a large stack near by the mean made a luxurious bivouac. The scene from this position was very fine. In front was the valley through which the Antietam ran to join the Potomac somewhere to our south-east. Beyond the creek the hills rose to a considerable elevation, crowned by hay-stacks and the houses of Sharpsburg, among which rested the Confederate army with its batteries frowning along the front. The country upon our right was hidden from view by hills on our side of the creek. Behind us were the batteries of Benjamin, Durell, and others on the ridge. It was a clear evening; all seemed to breathe awhile and rest for the dread contest of the morrow. Artillery was fired for some time from the enemy’s line, a few shots towards us, but most of them to the southeast where the trains of light and bursting shells looked like signals towards Harper’s Ferry. We hade a peaceful night’s rest. At midnight much needed rations were brought up from the trains by the exertions of our afterwards quartermaster, Cutter.
Before the men had turned out on the morning of the seventeenth the roar of battle came swelling down from the right, and men exclaimed: “Boys, listen to the music! They have gone in on the right!” Beyond the Antietam, above us, the corps of Generals Hooker, Mansfield, Sumner and Franklin successively assailed the Confederate left wing about Dunker Church, suffering and inflicting losses in killed and wounded unprecedented at that period of the war. The localities, times of entering the action by different divisions, and work done by each are much disputed; and it does not belong to this story to try to explain them. The high ground between shut off the scene from our view; we heard only the thunder of the mingled artillery and small arms as the tide of contest rose and fell. Let it sujffice here to say that the fight in that direction lasted from daylight to noon, that the field was a sea of blood, and the results indecisive.
In our front there was quiet in the early morning, except an occasional picket shot down in the misty bed of the creek. Directions were given to have all canteens filled, as the day was likely to be warm and men scattered with back loads of canteens in search of wells, The crowding about these and constant plying of the buckets muddied the water, and yet he was fortunate who filled up with that mixture. Firing began near us, and the word spread that the regiment was falling in; there was a rush from all directions to the ranks. When formed, about ten o’clock, we marched by the lefft flank through the fields and clumps of wood to the southward,— Lt-Col Carruth at the head, Lt. Hudson, an aide of Col. Ferrero acting as guide, — coming out on the wooded bluff immediately overlooking the valley of the Antietam. Here one of our batteries was engaged in a duel with a Confederate battery upon the opposite hills. The enemy’s shell flew about us, at our feet and among the trees, but harmlessly; our experience of yesterday had familiarized us somewhat with this long bowling. When, however, one of our shots struck and exploded a caisson on the other side our cheers were loud and long, and were replied to by a rather feeble yell from our antagonists.
It was near eleven o clock, and a brisk contest had been going on for some time upon the creek below us; but the trees and smoke concealed all from view. We could hear our men shouting and their foes yelling, amid the rattle of small arms; it seemed hot work down there. These were the unsuccessful movements to secure the bridge-crossing, first by Gen. Crook’s brigade of the Kanawha Division, afterwards by the Sixth New Hampshire and Second Maryland of the First Brigade (Gen. Nagle’s) of our division. At length the order came for us to move forward. We descended the hill by the left flank, and passed between te stalks of tall corn on the level, meeting several men holding an arm or some member from which the red blood was dripping. The air was close and stifling While this was being done, the following interesting conversation took place between Gen. Sturgis and Lt. Hudson aide. “Col. Ferrero wishes to know what to do with the regimentsl” Sturgis replied: “Have him move those regiments (the three older ones) down to the stream immediately, and take the bridge!” “And what with this new thirty-fifth Massachusetts?” “Tell him to move it across the bridge and up the hill in line of battle. There must be no delay; Gen. Burnside is waiting for this to be done now!” “Isn’t that artillery aimed at the position?” “Yes, but that shall be stopped.”
We reached the bank of the stream near a large spreading tree where the water flowed dark and cool under the overhanging foliage. At this point the creek ran nearly from west to east. The opposite bank was high with an abrupt rocky ascent, studded with trees, and completely commanding the side upon which we were. Here the regiment halted awhile; bundles were thrown off and piled, and a guard set over them; and bayonets were fixed. Not a shot was fired at us from the other bank,, the enemy’s attention being drawn to the fight above use, where the sounds of battle still continued, seeming to increase as we came nearer.
The country road ran up stream, close to the north bank of the creek, and was bounded on the northerly side by a fence and ploughed field, in which stood an old barn. Beyond the field and a fence, which formed its west boundary, was a wooded knoll, or two little knolls, facing the opening of the bridge, and behind these Nagle’s men were posted. Col. Ferrero ordered the Fifty-First Pennsylvania to move forward by the right flank to Nagle’s position, then down with a yell and rush over the bridge. The Twenty-First Massachusetts was placed in the ploughed field along the fence bounding the road, and ordered to open fire at the enemy across the creek; which they did warmly. Company A of our regiment was detailed to take position on the left of the Twenty-First, and commence firing in the same manner. The Fifty-First New York was posted on the right of the Twenty-First, but at right angles to it, facing up stream towards the bridge. The Fifity-First Pennsylvania proceeded as ordered, made a dash from the knoll to the opening of the bridge, stopped there and commenced firing. Our artillery was aimed at the further end of the bridge, and had to be quieted before the Fifty First could proceed.
Col. Ferrero moved diagonally across the ploughed field to behind the knolls, and the Thirty-Fifth followed. Col. Ferrero sent Lt. Hudson from the knolls to Col. Hartranft, commanding the Fifty-First Pennsylvania, to ask why he did not cross the bridge at once. Col. Hartranft was found at the right parapet with his colors. When the order was communicated to him, he said, “Does he wish it?” “ Yes, sir.” “Very well.”
The Fifty-First Pennslvania then started, the men firing inwards and setting up a yell as a signal for our artillery to cease firing on the bridge. Lt. Hudson then asked Lt.-Col Potter, commanding the Fifty First New York, to follow. He assented, and his regiment hurried after the Pennsylvanians. Most of our regiment, Company D now being the head of the column, had passed the fence near the knolls, when the shouting and the din of the conflict, now close at hand to our left, was redoubled. It was the charge of the two regiments in accordance with the above orders. Col. Ferrero said to Lt. Hudson: “Hudson, tell your colonel to cross the b ridge immediately, move along the road to the right, form in line and advance up the hill 1” The lieutenant did so.
“Forward!” came the order to us. “Double quick!” And we rushed around between the little knolls and out of the little grove, Lt-Col Carruth leading, into an open space facing the entrance to a stone bridge, with parapets, crossing the creek. Here was a startling scene of battle; clouds of smoke overhung; along the creek, below the bridge, the Twenty-First Massachusetts and our company A were actively engaged with the enemy posted behind trees, rails and stones, upon the rocky acclivity across the stream; dead and wounded men in blue lay about, some still tossing and writhing in their agony; the bridge was filled with men of the Fifty-First Pennsylvania and Fifty-First New York, who had preceded us, some kneeling behind the parapets of the b ridge and firing up at the gray coats, others crowding forward to the further end of the bridge and also firing upward.
Our regiment came partly into line, as if to open fire along the bank at the bridge; then, by the Col’s commands, swung by the right again and joined the throng hurrying to the other bank, the third regiment to cross. Confederate sharpshooters dropped or slide from the overhanging trees in which they had been hidden — one clinging to a branch the moment before he fell. It is said that Col. Ferrero seized a musket and fired among them. In a shorter time than t takes to tell it we had crowded across the bridge and filed into the road to the right, where the two regiments which had preceded us were halted. The line of the regiment was formed quickly and steadily, facing the hill, which here rose more gently than below the bridge. Men in gray came down the hill, holding up both hands, or waving a dirty white rag, and were sent to the rear as prisoners. They belonged to Georgia regiments of Toomb’s Brigade of General D.R. Jones’s Division.
The halt here was but for a few moments; then the Thirty-Fifth was ordered forward up the hill, with a promise that other regiments should follow in support. Accordingly we advanced up the steep, climbing with difficulty the high rail fences, at first in line of battle, then swinging into column and moving by the right flank as we neared the top. The regiment reached the bare brow of the hill — the first to appear there — and moved some distance by the right flank to the higher part of the rise. Before us, towards Sharpsburg, the enemy were scattering back to their artillery upon the hills on the hither side of the town. The hostile battery, which we had been watching an hour before, now, close at hand, opened upon us at once, and sent the iron whizzing around us, shells taking effect in Cos. D & H, cutting Luther F. Read in two, killing David W. Cushing, and severely wounding Lt. Baldwin.* (*The commander of that battery, Moody, was subsequently a prisoner under charge of Lt. Baldwin, at Fort Warren.)
It was but high noon. If supports had been up, as promised, the whole could have gone forward, kept the already started (startled?) enemy upon the go, and, as the ouaves did at a later hour, driven the exposed gunners from their artillery with less loss than afterwards befell, — for we, at least, were green enough to go anywhere without hesitation; and the subsequent Confederate reenforcements from Harper’s Ferry might have come too late. But we knew nothing of the importance of prompt action at that hour; to stand still upon the exposed hill-top would be murder; moreover, Gen. Sturgis had orders to hold back his division — most of the regiments being out of ammunition — and let the rear pass in front of him. Accordingly our colonel, seeing no supports behind him, ordered the regiment to retire under the brow of the hill and lie down. The shells hurtled around us as we climbed the fence in retreat; yet many, indignant at the notion of falling back, and fearing more bayonets of their compatriots while getting over the fence than the missiles of the enemy, waited a bit, until the line had crossed, before following. The Confederate Gen. D.H. Hill says he caused his guns to open upon an “imposing force of Yankees” at twelve hundred yards distance, and routed them by artillery fire alone, unaided by musketry. It is possible that his imposing force was the Thirty-Fifth going up and retiring as above. But tghey were neither routed nor flurried, and would have gone forward as readily then, when they saw the enemy running, as afterwards when our men fell back. As we thus came back over the fence our batteries, mistaking us for the enemy, commenced firing into us. Col. Carruth waved his hat, without effect; then his voice rang out, “Unfurl those colors and wave them! Steady — not too high!” We had only the blue and the white flags, no stars and stripes. No more shots came from the rear. Just under the crest of the hill we halted and lay down upon the dried grass of the field.
Behind us was the deep valley of the bed of the creek, into which the Confederate shells, passing over us, went crashing among the trees about the bridge, almost making the crossing there impracticable. On our left regiments were soon seen coming up, the Twenty-First Massachusetts among the first, followed by our Co. A, which now rejoined the regiment; its position in rear of the Twenty-First having given the men of that regiment grounds for their subsequent belief that they crossed before the Thirty-Fifth. In front we, except the few videttes thrown forward, could see nothing, the hill concealing all in that direction; but to our right the view was quite unobstructed, the land being lower for some distance, then rising gently to the hay stacks and houses of the town. This space was unoccupied at first; it was the interval in the centre of the battle-field which separated the right and left wings of the army. The sounds of battle had subsided in th4e direction of the right wing. We learned afterwards that their fight was for the most part over, thus early in the day. A shell, skimming the crest of the hill, tole a haversack from a man’s back as he lay upon the ground, and sent it flying towards the stream below, exciting merriment in spite of the gravity of the situation. The whirring of the shells above us had a drowsing effect, and some of our men dozed; others munched hard bread and conversed in low tones; some went for water by detail, fillings canteens from the warm, soft water of the creek. At such a time men’s characters reveal themselves, the religiously disposed bends his thoughts on Heaven; the less devout watches the ants busy as usual at their never-ending labors, and wishes he could be as small as they for a few hours; while the more thoughtless cuts his tobacco and enjoys its soothing influe3nce. We lay thus several hours while the troops were coming over. It was slow work passing Wilcox’s Division and Hawkins’s Brigade through the narrow defile of the stone bridge, only twelve feet wide, and under cross fire of artillery. No fords were used near the bride, if any practicable ones existed there; even the name of the stream was unknown at first. Col. Ferrero offered to try to ford below the bridge in the morning; but the attempt was discouraged.
Regiments moved over the hill to the left, and some from behind passed steadily over us through our ranks, some of the men seeming to prefer to join us for awhile, but their officers preventing. On the right we saw for the first time a line of skirmishers go forward in good style, firing and loading. It was a pretty sight. They reached the haystacks, and presently these burst into flame; cheering was heard in front, and it began to look like victory. A Confederate battery was captured by the Ninth New York (Hawkins’s Zouaves) and held a short time. It was the crisis of the battle; at this hour the Confederate line was badly broken — as we learn from writers who were present on that side — their men had scattered into the town and could not be rallied. Orders had been issued for our brigade to be relieved, and sent down to the road by the bridge. Lt. Hudson, aide, was on the way to transmit them to Col. Carruth; but the order from Gen. Cox, corps commander, mentioned below, arrived first, to quite a contrary purport. For now came a turn in affairs. It was between four and five o’clock. The light troops of A.P. Hill. Confederate general, which had left Harper’s Ferry in the morning, marching in haste, had arrived at the nick of time for them; and, catching our left, Gen. Rodman’s Division, somewhat disorganized by its successful advance, took them upon the flank and pressed them back irresistibly. Back came our line as swiftly as it had advanced, but more scattered, the Zouaves badly cut up. There was danger that the enemy would follow and overtake the whole in a mass at the bridge head; they must be stopped at ny cost. Col. Ferrero had ordered our colonel to form a line across the ravine, below and on our right, and stop all stragglers, which had been obeyed.
One of our batteries had come over the bridge and opened fire in front of us. Now, out of ammunition, one section of it limbered up hurriedly, and prepared to fall back. Gen. Cox, seeing the danger of panic, gave the order, “Send that big regiment over the hill!” Lt. Hudson told the general of Col. Ferrero’s order. General Cox replied: “Yes, I know that. But the regiment must move at once; you see the need of haste.” A line of skirmishers along the brow of the next hill were shooting minies uncomfortably our way. As soon as the order was passed, Col. Carruth started up: “Attention! Thirty Fifth.” We rose up at once and faced the front, forming forward a little, the companie4s moving to their positions. :Left — face! Forward — march!” Hardly had the regiment faced and moved a little distance when the battery came dashing full speed into us, breaking our line for a moment, but the men undismayed closed up immediately. A little way to the left, then facing to the front, with a hurrah, the regiment went at a double quick, in line of battle, over the hill and down the slope into the valley towards Sharpsburg.
We passed remnants of the first line and kept on to a rail fence, partly broken down, enclosing a lane, into which some of the men climbed. Here we halted, and, laying our rifles upon the rails, opened fire at will upon the enemy coming on to follow up their success On our left the other regiments of our brigade — said to be almost out of ammunition — were also engaged or lying down waiting to repel the foe with the bayonet.; but the line in that direction bent back exposing our flank. Behind us was the slope of the hill down which we had come; in front was a ploughed field, sloping up to a wall of the most solid construction, about two hundred yards off; on the left front, cornfields with the high stalks and waving blades uncut. Beyond these the hill rose more steeply to the summit, upon which were the enemy’s batteries. Behind he wall and in te cornfield was the Confederate Infantry; their right overlapping our left, making a cross fire upon our left companies.
Our first fire was a rattling volley; then came the momentary interval occupied in loading. The rifles were, of course, muzzle loaders, with iron ramrods; the cartridges were new and the brown paper of the toughest description, so that strong fingers ere required to tear out the conical ball and the little paper cup of gunpowder. Emptying these into the muzzle and ramming home and capping the piece took time — seemingly a long time in the hurry of action — and to discharge sixty rounds in this way occupies an hour or more of intense exertion. The men finding this difficulty settled down to the work steadily, loading and firing, aiming now to the wall, then to the cornfield, and then elevating the sight pieces and trying for the cannoneers about the hostile guns. It was a steady roll of musketry. The officers directed the aim of the men, Capt. Cheever’s quaint phrase being, “Pop away! Boys, Pop
away!” the file closers refraining from firing at first, but watching their men as Col. Wild in his instructions had directed.
The enemy had not been idle, our men being hit behind our batter — where N.I. Sweeney, of Company C, fell — and while we were advancing, and now at the fence. The force of a minie ball or piece of shell striking any solid portion of the person is astonishing; it comes like a blow from a sledge hammer, and the recipient finds himself sprawling on the ground before he is conscious of being hit; then he feels about for the wound, the benumbing blow deadening sensation for a few moments. Unless struck in the head or about the heart men mortally wounded live some time, often in great pain, and toss about upon the ground. So now, while we were firing men began to fall headlong, or drop their guns and seize some portion of their bodies; arms dripping with blood were held up to be stanched, and ghastly faces were turned to a friend for a last word. The dropping shot and pieces of shell from the enemy raised the dust in little puffs in the ploughed land before and on the slope behind us. Now and then our men or the Confederates raised a shout or yell at some well-aimed missile, a flag was waved or the enemy’s field pieces changed position. It was work in dead earnest and intensely exciting. The rising white smoke was quickly wafted away. One spoke to his comrade, turned aside and, looking back, saw him weltering upon the ground; but there was no time for thought then — load and fire! — load and fire!
Our regiment being so large and so steadily engaged drew special attention from the Confederate batteries and line. The bullets, zip! Zip! Close to the ear, shells burst with sulphurous smoke, and pieces flew in every direction. Our wounded accumulated rapidly, and the motionless bodies of the dead, upon the back or face, with pallid faces and arms thrown out. Some men repeated as they fired a set phrase or oath, expressive of their feelings. The color guard especially suffered. Color-Sgt. Moses C. Bartlett was wounded and sent to the rear. Lt.-Col Carruth was disabled by a wound in the side of the neck, near the jugular vein, and obliged to leave the field. Capt. King, acting major, walked along the line directing the aim of trhe men to the cornfield, in which the enemy were apparently forming for a charge, their flags waving in the setting sun, —he even took a gun and fired it. Cheers were raised, but all were too busy to waste much breath. The rifles with repeated discharges began to get too hot to hold. Many of them became clogged by the dirt from the powder, and the ball could not be forced home; but there were serviceable ones left upon the ground, dropped by the dead and wounded. Thus a man used two or three guns before his ammunition was expended.
While this was going on Col Ferrero’s aides, Lts. Walcott and Hudson, were with Gen. Sturgis at the bridge. Lt. Walcott said: “General, our regiments can’t hold that position any longer; to my certain knowledge they are mostly out of ammunition and some have been quite so for nearly an hour.” To which the general replied By —, they must hold it; we’ve nothing else to hold it with!” About the same time Gen. Burnside was calling upon Gen. McClellan for reinforcements, but without success.
As the sun went down the weight of fire of the Confederate infantry increased rather than slackened, showing additional troops for them; but none came for us. Word was passed that we were to be relieved by some Connecticut regiments, and glances were cast behind us, and Capts. Andrews (acting lt-col), King and Lathrop passed along the line, opening the boxes of the fallen and distributing the cartridges found. A steady, but much weaker fire was continued, for our line had grown woefully thin, and the disabled seemed as numerous as the fighting men. It grew dark apace, and the flashes of the guns of the Confederate line twinkled like a display of fireworks.
No relief came. Our line had dwindled to a skirmish line. Capt. King, struck in seven places, was helped off the field with the colors. The last cartridge was expended. No communication from the rear had been received for some time — we seemed to be facing the enemy along — it could be endured no longer. Word was passed in an undertone, “Fall back to the hill!” and the relics of the regiment, amid a perfect storm of bullets, retreated to the hill. Officers and men had done all that could be asked of them.
The enemy did not follow. The object of the advance of our brigade had been secured, his forward movement stopped, and the position gained on the west bank saved. Gen. McClellan had sent word to Burnside, “Hold the bridge at all hazards; if that is lost, all is lost.” The bridge was held. It was twilight. Behind the hill regiments were drawn up in solid lines — the relief that did not come to us. Seeing th4eir steady appearance, our men stopped and came together. Most of them went down to the creek to drink and wash the powder from their hands and faces, which were a sight to behold; then formed in remnants of companies and marched up the road, ascending the precipitous cliff to the left. At a bend in the road some thoughtful commissary — blessed be his name — had place a barrel partly filled with chunks of boiled fresh beef. Each man as he passed dipped into this and moved on, munching a huge piece for his late dinner. Arrived at the top of the hill, an ammunition wagon was found and cartridge boxes replenished. It was too dark for further contest, and the conflict had died away; the enemy also had got all of fighting they wanted for the day. Arms were stacked, and the men rested. Capt. Cheever lay here upon a blanket, injured by some missile at the time the regiment retired behind the brow of the hill, when first we ascended it after crossing, but he had, nevertheless, continued in command of his company until now. Inquiries for friends passed around; hands were shaken when chums met, as if after a long absence; and low talk was busy about the events of the day. It had been an afternoon in the valley of death.
In the evening Capt. Lathrop and Lt. Hudson, receiving information of wounded men without reach from Corp. Whitman* (*Corp Frank M. Whitman received, February 21, 1874, from the Secy. Of War, one of the bronze “Medals of Honor” conferred upon enlisted men only in cases of distinguished gallantry, accordance with an Act of Congress.) (for he and several of Co. G appear to have been the last fighting men to leave the rail fence), tried, with a squad of men, to make their way in the intense darkness down to the fence to care for the wounded; but the party was stopped by a line of pickets from the Fifty-First Pennsylvania wo had orders to permit no movement to be made which culd possibly renew the action. The officers were permitted to go b eyond the pickets but were cautioned not to go far, and they did not reach the fence. However, several of the wounded were found who had crawled up to the pickets, and these were placed in blankets, men holding the corners, and slowly and painfully carried down the hill and across the bridge to temporary hospitals in the barns thereabouts. Returning to the regiment, so overcome with fatigue as scarcely to be able to drag one foot after the other, they found the men asleep behind their stacks of arms; and rolling such covers as could be found about them, they also dropped at once into the sleep of utter exhaustion — only the guards, and those kept awake by the pain of wounds, noticed the showers during the night.
The next morning was quiet for some time. We had now in the daylight an opportunity to note the losses of the regiment: Cos. B, G and K were each represented only by a small group of men, their three or four stacks of arms seeming incredibly small. No field or staff officer appeared except Adj. Wales, who had been struck by a ball but not wounded. He had left the hospital to join the regiment, with an Enfield rifle in hand, “to get a lick at the rebs,” as he told Lt. Hudson. Asst. Surgeon Munsell had been wounded at the field hospital by a piece of shell. Of the line officers, Capts. Bartlett and Niles were killed or mortally wounded at the rail fence; Capts. King, Cheeveer and Oliver were disabled b y wounds; Lt. Palmer was killed, and Lts. Hood, Hodges, Baldwin, Ingell, Brooks, Park and Blake were in the list of wounded. We had lost Capt Pratt and Lts. Williams and Hill at South Mountain. Only Capts. Andrews and Lathrop and some half dozen lts. remained for duty with the regiment that morning.
Of the enlisted men the following were killed outright or died of their wounds soon afterwards:
Co A — Sgt. Edward Peggren; Corp Robert L. Lincoln.
Co B — Corp William C. Colby; musician, Benjamin H. Rogers; Privates, Joseph Cossar, David R. Hinckley, George W. Hodgdon, Jeremiah Long, Jr., Caleb C. Pike and Alphonso P. Reed.
Co C — Sgt. Henry Bowen; privates, George W. Alden, Joseph M. Goulding, John A. Lane, Joseph T. Pratt, Nathaniel L. Sweeney and Charles E. Dam.
Co D — Luther F. Read.
Co E— Privates, George Henry, Loren R. Brackett, Levi A. Brandage, Richard H. Cox, Philip Donnehoe, Joseph V. Sloan and James T.F. Smith
Co F — Corp Thomas Clay; privates, Ambrose Hinds, Charles E.M. Welch and Joseph Wood..
Co G – Privates, Stephen C. Adams, Herbert M. Drew, George W. Ellis, Henry O. George, Andrew J. Gile, William Hackett, Henry A. Hoyt, Harrison W. Sargent, Charles H. Tarbox, Watson S. Williams, Clarence H. Woodman, George A. Young and Augustus W. Dresser.
Co H — Privates, David W. Cushing, William Pike, Charles H. Robbins, William W. Smith and Nathan Winslow.
Co I — Corp Edmund E. Hatton; privates, Ralph A. Jones, Charles Sulkoski, Nathan C. Treadwell, Patrick Walsh and Joseph P. White.
Co K — Sgt. Alfred C. Earle; Corp Roscoe Bradley; Privates, Dearborn S. Blake, Francis D. Brown, Henry H. Cleveland, Tappan S. Eaton, Leander W. Faunce, Horace Goodwin, Horatio B. Hackett, Charles Inhof, Joseph Lambert, James Rust, Ivori R. Stillings, Charles T. Wenborn, Ai B Smith and Byley Lyford.
These were the sixty-nine heroes who laid down their lives for that terrible day’s work. Company B was the color company. Cos. G and K were subjected to a cross fire, which accounts for their great loss. There were also some one hundred and fifty men wounded, and some missing making in all at South Mountain and Antietam, of the officers and men seventy-eight dead and about one hundred and seventy-five wounded. Between two hundred and fifty and three hundred men only were for duty behind the stacks of arms on the eighteenth of September.
At first the regiment seemed wiped out, but many rejoined in course of the day who had gone off with the wounded or on detail duty. Men found their clothing and equipments bored by bullets in every conceivable way. He was the exception who had not some curiosity of the kind to exhibit. One man found a bullet hole through the flesh of his thigh, which he was not aware of in the excitement until he went to the creek to wash. Thrilling accounts were given of he deaths of the fallen, or of adventures in the fight. Walsh, the man with the tea kettle, lay dead by the rail fence with the other noble fellows.
The troops were withdrawn a little under the crest of the hill, after the Confederates had ob served us and sent several shells about our ears, without harm, as a morning greeting. It was showery, and the soil became slippery mud at once. The order of last night was continued, to do nothing likely to renew the action. If our generals had all they wanted of fighting we were content, we also had a sufficiency; and although the regiment would have done its duty, the men had no present hunger for battle. There was little movement upon either side; both parties were repairing damages.
The losses to the armies had been, according to Capt. Phisterer, — Union: killed 2,020; wounded 9,416; missing 1,043; total 12,469. Confederate total 25,899.
At evening our brigade was at length relieved by fresh troops and we marched back over the bridge to get rations and our packs, which had been left on the east side, as above mentioned, before the bridge was taken. That night we slept in an apple orchard near the crossing.
Next day it was found that General Lee had withdrawn his army to the south side of the Potomac. Our brigade was formed, and marched over the bridge again and across the battle-field. Col. Ferrero read his commission as a brigadier-general, just received. It was accepted as a recognition of the services of the brigade in the battle, and the announcement was greeted by loud cheering and congratulations, especially among the older regiments. We then passed the rail fence, where the dead still lay, the stone wall and athe cornfield, where the enemy had been, and the station of their batteries on the hill, marked by the bodies of the horses killed in the action. We then turned to the left, away from Sharpsburg, and after a few miles, came out upon the high land overlooking the Antietam, near the Iron-works, and here made our bivouac. We staid upon these hills until the twenty-sixth, looking out upon the beautiful amphitheatre of hills though which ran the placid Antietam.
Sunday, the twenty-first, by direction of General Burnside, special services were held in memory of the dead with prayers, addresses and sacred hymns, which were very impressive and affecting.
The regiment was for a day or two under the command of Capt. J.G. Wright, Acting Major of the Fifty-First New York; afterwards for several days, Capt. Andrews commanded. Chaplain Miller arrived on the twenty-second. And on the following day, Major Willard returned from Washington, quite troubled in mind because he had no share in our first battles. The first mail of letters for two weeks except a few on the twenty-first, was opened, and late newspapers reached camp. We learned of the great slaughter done and suffered by our right wing, the death of Gen. Mansfield, wound of Gen. Hooker, and the other losses. Also some of the Fifth Corps came into camp and told of the disastrous reconnaissance by a division of that corps across the Potomac, a short distance from our station.
We now began to think seriously and estimate the task in hand. We numbered eight or nine officers and three hundred and forty-eight men with the regiment. It was but one month since we had left Lynnfield, and two-thirds of our number were gone; at this rate how many would be left at the end of three years? The patriotic fervor which had sustained us did not effervesce so noticeably, but began to weaken somewhat in the presence of such stern realities. As one man expressed it, “patriotism was played out,” meaning that the hurrah-boys spirit had evaporated. We had seen the slain of the Confederates on South Mountain and our own dead at Antietam, and the grave fact that we had engaged to be, and had become, slayers of our fellowmen stared us in the face, without the glamour of flash oratory and colored lights about it. The thoughtful ones compared this fact with the religious teachings of New England, and found it hard to reconcile their duty with the gospel of the peaceful Jesus. Truly, one should not be nurtured among the doves if he is fated to contend with the eagles. The depression which usually affects the mind for a time after the excitement of severe battle was upon us.
The less impressed found amusement in bathing in the creek, hunting for paw-paws, and even horse-racing was tried, until the quartermaster objected to it as deleterious to Gov’t property. Some found relief by visiting the hospitals and caring for friends. Our hearts were not yet hardened to the battle, nor had we learned to submit patiently to the long delays in camp. We were cheered by the calls of visitors from home. In this camp Mayor Fay of Chelsea, and Miss Gilson were introduced to the regiment. They were ministering angels to our wounded on this and many subsequent occasions. Rev. J.G. Bartholomew and Messrs. A. Josselyn and William Barton, of Roxbury, visited camp about the first of October and tasted life in the bivouac. Mrs. N.A. Moulton and Even Manson, of Newburyport, left home immediately after the battle of Antietam, taking with them two trunks filled with link, bandages, and delicacies for the sick and wounded. They visited all the hospitals where men of the Thirty-Fifth could be found; and, while they were searching for wounded men from Co B, they did not overlook those from other companies. They visited the field hospitals at Antietam, and came to the regiment when we were at the Iron-works.
The Kanawha Division and Gen. J.D. Cox, our corps commander, left the Ninth Corps to return to their department west of the mountains. They were of good fighting material, and are entitled to the first honors of South Mountain. It was Gen. Cox and his men who, early in the day, turning a reconnaissance into a battle, gained and held the south side of the pass until support arrived to secure the victory.
On the twenty-sixth we moved by way of the Iron-works to the more level ground on the east side of the Antietam, and went into regular camp near a brick house, making shelters of rails and corn stalks. Camp duty, with all the formalities, sick call, orderlie’s call, morning company drill, and afternoon battalion movements and dress parade, was undertaken in earnest under Major Willard. Our first grand review of the Ninth Army Corps was held October 3, in the fields north of our camp ground, the President, Lincoln himself, riding past, accompanied by Generals McClellan, Burnside and others — all smiling and apparently on the best of terms with each other.
The nights were growing cold and frosty, and the thin Confederate blankets, which many had not been able to exchange, were a poor protection from the weather. We were pleased to receive, therefore, on the fifth, wall tents for the officers and shelter tents for the men, the latter being the first of the kind we had possessed. They were pieces of stout drilling or light duck cloth, about five feet and a half square, with buttons and holes along three of the edges. By joining two, four, or six of these, and laying them over a ridge pole supported by two crotched stakes, a low tent was made, much more comfortable as an abode than one would imagine. Each man carried his piece upon his pack on the march, and every night the little shelters sprang up like mushrooms, almost as soon as the halt was ordered. These were the only roofs over our heads until the end of our service, with brief exceptions; and many a soldier will remember, almost with affection, his little square of weather-stained, scorches or patched shelter tent, which protected him from the cold rains and snows of winter and the burning suns of summer.
On the seventh of October the regiment again broke camp and climbed the mountains eastward, over roads rough and full of obstacles, descending into Pleasant Valley—a spot fittingly names — and camped near the opening of the Valley, under Maryland Heights, three or four miles from Harper’s Ferry. The rough life in our rude huts of rails had the natural effect upon the personal appearance of our men, and at the inspection held immediately after our arrival we were honored with the information that ours was the dirtiest regiment in the brigade. To think that we could have so soon rivaled, even surpassed the veterans in their most noticeable characteristic! The major felt hurt, and worked incessantly and effectually to remedy the deformity.
Our ranks gradually swelled by the return of convalescents. A lot of knapsacks — five hundred selected at random from the one thousand which the regiment left at Arlington — were sent up from Washington, and some lucky men found their own among them. A change of underclothing had become extremely desirable. On the tenth the Eleventh New Hampshire Regiment, afterwards our fast friends, joined the brigade. They were remarkable for their colonel — the cordial Walter Harriman — for their dark-blue overcoats, handsome new Springfield rifles, and, last but not least, their brass band. Lt.-Col Carruth returned on the thirteenth of October and took command, his wound being sufficiently healed. The most earnest efforts were now made by him to improve the regiment in field movements, especially the drill in formations against cavalry, by fours, by platoons, etc. Our first brigade drill under Gen. Ferrero was held on the twentieth of the month.
The spirit of the men improved; strength returned with the cooling air, better food and constant exercise; and the army was ready for the field again. The health of the men of the regiment was remarkably good; there was no case of dangerous disease in the hospital of the regiment. There had been death by disease in the regiment since its organization.
Meanwhile Gen. Lee’s army lay in the Shenandoah Valley, along the banks of the Opoequan, waiting for the Union forces to cross the Potomac.